Ten years ago, the initial Hope in Shadows calendar sold a mere 1,500 copies.
This year, the calendar which features photos of and by residents of the Downtown Eastside expects to sell out its run of 17,000 copies. And it is largely thanks to street vendors like Garvin Snider.
“It’s surprising to see how much people know about the calendar after 10 years,” Snider said this week.
The Hope in Shadows calendar project helps residents of the Downtown Eastside develop skills like photography and sales, and gives them the chance to safely earn money.
Since its birth in 2002, nearly 75,000 calendars have been sold at a price of $20 each. Half the proceeds from each sale go to the vendors — residents of the Downtown Eastside — and half to the Pivot Legal Society, a group that organizes the calendar and provides legal aid for low-income residents in the community.
The calendar has received hundreds of photo submissions over the past 10 years. Each photo was taken by residents on donated or subsidized disposable cameras. Snider’s photos have been featured in the calendar twice.
He says when he is selling the calendars on the street, he’s amazed how receptive people are and how many people have taken an interest. Last year it sold out all of its 17,000 copies.
The idea behind the calendar was sparked during the beginnings of the Pivot Legal Society. Carolyn Wong, project coordinator with Pivot, said the goal was to reverse public perceptions surrounding residents of the Downtown Eastside.
“What the community was up against back then was trying to combat stereotypes and stigma that people who are impacted by poverty come up against. Photography was something they found was quite effective against it,” said Wong
Its first year, the project sold 1,500 copies at a time when the calendars were being sold only at stores. But after vendors started selling it on the streets, Hope in Shadows took off and the sales rose.
“I don’t think Pivot anticipated that this part of the project would grow. It really took on a life of its own,” said Wong.
Snider and a friend instigated the vendor program. The first year Snider’s photo was chosen to be in a calendar in 2006, he wanted to take part in selling them. He approached Pivot with that idea and the vendor program was created. Now a large aspect of the project is devoted to vendor orientation and support.
“We have a vendors committee now, getting together and organizing so that if there are any issues we can get together and resolve it amicably ourselves,” said Snider. “That’s very empowering.”
While Wong doesn’t have a plan for the next 10 years, she’s looking forward to growth next year, including expansion into other communities such as North Vancouver.
“In the future, we’ll see Hope in Shadows connecting with some other communities, so they can do some storytelling through this project as well,” she said.
But Wong is sure of one thing — the ability of Hope in Shadows to continue to adapt and change, building meaningful connections for the community.